You may be familiar with the Gaia hypothesis, which borrowed the name of the Greek Earth goddess and posits that organic and inorganic elements on the planet are involved in a continual interaction to keep things in balance so life can continue. It was first proposed back in the ’70s, then fell out of fashion. But, today, with climate peril looming, it’s worth taking another look.
There’s plenty of information available about the mechanisms that this theory proposes, so I’ll leave that to your individual Google’ing. But some recent reading I’ve done on the possible consciousness of things that we humans generally don’t consider sentient has revived my interest in the whole idea that the planet is just one, integrated organism and we, as the most advanced thinkers, may well have arrogantly thought our way out of the very equation in which we’re a factor. (I hope that last sentence proves MY sentience.)
The Gaia hypothesis doesn’t go so far as saying that rocks have thought, although I have heard that idea put forward, but does recognize their ability to interact with us critters. After all, if you examine a rock, it has a lot of moving parts at the sub-atomic level, just like we do. And it is made up of chemicals, just like we are. And isn’t the whole thought process of which we are so proud nothing but chemical interaction?
OK, now I go a bit far. But, there has been legitimate scientific confirmation that trees communicate, through their root systems, with other trees, even coming to the aid of a fellow tree in distress. If trees, why not rocks?
So let’s assume, just for the sake of assuming, that there is something to this Gaia thing. What’s in it for us? Or better, what’s in store for us? I remember reading someone saying that we needn’t worry about the planet, that the planet has been through crises before and can take care of itself. But we’d better worry about ourselves. Gulp! What if Gaia given has up on us?
Think about what happens in your body, a complex organism of integrated factions and functions, when a virus or bacteria invades it. We can tolerate low levels, but when these invaders start to multiply beyond that level of tolerance, forces unseen are mustered and a gigantic war is waged. If we’re lucky, and we usually are, we win and those invaders are defeated.
Now picture this planetary organism, humming along smoothly with under a billion humans attempting to screw with its natural balance. Tolerable. Then 1850 rolls around and the population begins growing exponentially until it arrives at its current eight billion level. And with all those extra invaders come all the nasties of environmental pollution and carbon generation. Is it possible Gaia is enlisting unseen forces, like COVID, to try and get the infection under control?
On the other hand, maybe Gaia can really tolerate us. There’s the argument that the physical laws of our particular universe, along with the amazingly perfect conditions for life as we know it on this planet, demonstrate that we really were meant to be. But, then, the dinosaurs were around for way longer than we’ve been and, well, maybe we are just a test run, too.
As we near, not just within our lifetimes, but maybe right around the corner, human existence outside of controlled indoor climates being impossible in many places on this planet, you have to wonder if Gaia will come to mankind’s recuse. Will there be volcanic eruptions that spew mega-tons of sunlight-blocking dust into the atmosphere? Will we figure out a human solution to Earth’s overheating, possibly putting our own layer of dust into space? Will that cause a new Ice Age, one that finds us technologically better equipped to deal with than we were with the last one? Stand by for film at 11:00.
At this point, I think Gaia could probably do the better job of saving us. But maybe, she/it has other ideas.
©2022 David B Bucher